The Gospel according to Kevin

2014-10-18 00:00

IT is dangerous to comment on a book without reading it, but so much of Kevin Pietersen’s latest autobiography has appeared in the media that a few words might be justified.

His first effort, Crossing the Boundary — The Early Years in My Cricketing Life was so atrocious that I thought for a moment that he must have written it himself without the aid of a ghost writer. As it turned out, I surrendered to the inevitable after 20 pages and threw it into the dustbin. Some of my friends wondered at my naïveté for taking so long to arrive at a conclusion that they reached after a few paragraphs.

This time round, Pietersen has at least hired David Walsh to do the hard yards of making some sense of his ramblings into a tape recorder. Walsh is an excellent writer who is better known for his long campaign to unmask Lance Armstrong for the cheat that Walsh long thought the American cyclist to be as far back as the year when Armstrong won his first Tour de France.

By employing Walsh, Pietersen ensured the readability of volume two of his life story. One wonders what the astute Walsh truly thought as he listened to hour upon hour of Pietersen’s discordant tearing apart of the England team that he represented for the best part of a decade. I imagine that if Walsh ever decides to write an account of the process of writing this book it may be more revealing of Pietersen’s warped view of the world outside than the book itself.

Walsh has chosen, or was instructed, to portray his master as a misunderstood genius who was continually undermined by nearly all those who stood to gain most from his flawless brilliance. Few of his former team-mates escape criticism. Michael Vaughan, his first England captain, does so as a reward for his support since Pietersen’s sacking by the England Cricket Board. Those still in the England team are largely spared on the forlorn hope that the other bridges so spectacularly burnt in the book will not prove fatal to his dream of a recall “to play for his country”.

Cookie, Broady and Jimmy escape outright condemnation although the captain is described as “weak” and the other two were the most visible of the bowlers to express anger at miscreant fielders. Belly and Trottie, his fellow Japie, are left alone but the rest of the seven dwarves, Swanny and Mattie, along with Grumpy, aka Andy Flower, cop a full blast safe in the knowledge that their days with the England team are over.

It clearly escaped Pietersen that the above-mentioned players and manager were all present in Brisbane on the occasion of his 100th Test match when he described that team’s dressing room as the best environment of his career. His allegations of bullying have been received with incredulity by his former team-mates. They do not sit well alongside Pietersen’s complaints about having to “babysit a schoolboy”, James Taylor, when the diminutive batsman made his debut against South Africa.

At the end of that same Brisbane Test match, KP was asked about the dreadful shot he played to get out when England was in trouble. He blithely responded by asking the interviewer if he had seen the team’s tail enders trying to play Mitchell Johnson. This was classic Pietersen — it has always been someone else’s fault.

The problems he had with Natal, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and, eventually, England, have never been of his own doing. It has always been about others’ failure to accommodate a maverick genius, the unappreciated match winner, “the greatest run scorer in the history of England’s cricket”.

His batting in the last Ashes series betrayed a complete lack of awareness of the often dire straits of his team. Time and again, to the fury of his team-mates, he presented his wicket to the grateful Australians. Not for a moment did he appear to remember that he was still on probation following his texting issues about Andrew Strauss. When he then expressed dissent in a manner verging on mutiny, he crossed a line from which there would be no escape. That he did not understand this reveals the fatal flaw in his make-up — self-delusion on a grand scale.

When he first played for England it would have taken his new team-mates a nanosecond to pick up on the nature of Pietersen’s phony patriotism whenever he spoke about playing for “his country”. His absurd tattoo of the three lions brought ridicule rather than respect. His expressed desire to become the David Beckham of cricket with all the footballer’s wealth and fame would have distanced himself from the very people among whom he should have been cultivating friendships. He found solace instead with celebrities, such as Piers Morgan, whose egos matched his own.

Cricket dressing rooms do not appreciate overbearing egotism and arrogance, particularly when combined with a lack of self-awareness. Its inhabitants have a way of putting such egos into place and in Pietersen’s case this found expression in the infamous “KPgenius” Twitter account that “reduced him to pieces”. Poor thing.

With a book to sell in South Africa, Pietersen suddenly loves again the land of his birth, the country he calls “home”.

The prodigal admits always to having been a South African. Just how this plays out in the England cricket team to which he would love to return is not difficult to imagine.

It will soon dawn on Pietersen that nothing gathers dust quicker than the triumphs of yesterday’s sportsmen. He will try to keep his fame afloat, but he may find many doors have been closed to him. It would not surprise me if one day we do not see another book, a mea culpa that is an attempt to recover lost ground.

If so, he will have to do better than “my greatest mistake was to kiss the badge of my helmet when I made a century in South Africa” — the classic Kevin confession.

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